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EXS. 2010;100:31-63.

Toxicology of mycotoxins.

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IBB-Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Universidade do Minho, Portugal.


Humans are exposed to mycotoxins via ingestion, contact and inhalation. This must have occurred throughout human history and led to severe outbreaks. Potential diseases range from akakabio-byo to stachybotryotoxicosis and cancer. The known molecular bases of toxicology run the gamut of 23 compounds, from aflatoxins (AFs) to zearalenone, ochratoxin A and deoxynivalenol. Ergotism is one of the oldest recognized mycotoxicosis, although mycotoxin science only commenced in the 1960s with the discovery of AFs in turkey feed. AFs are carcinogenic. Some others are suspected carcinogens. The effects of mycotoxins are acute or chronic in nature. Mycotoxins are well known in the scientific community, although they have a low profile in the general population. An incongruous situation occurs in United States where mycotoxins from "moldy homes" are considered to be a significant problem, although there is a general debate about seriousness. This contrasts with the thousands of deaths from mycotoxins that occur, even now, in the technologically less developed countries (e.g., Indonesia, China, and Africa). Mycotoxins are more toxic than pesticides. Studies are moving from whole animal work to investigating the biochemical mechanisms in isolated cells, and the mechanisms of toxicity at the molecular level are being elucidated. The stereochemical nature of AFs has been shown to be important. In addition, the effect of multiple mycotoxins is being increasingly investigated, which will more accurately represent the situation in nature. It is anticipated that more fungal metabolites will be recognized as dangerous toxins and permitted statutory levels will decrease in the future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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